Explosive TIME Exposé Probes World of Hospital Costs

In a breaking 36-page investigative report for TIME titled, "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us," journalist Steven Brill delves into the hospital and health insurance market and explains why healthcare costs are so high in the United States.

Through numerous anecdotes and details, the article says the healthcare system of "buyers" and "sellers" is unlike any other type of economic system. Patients are rarely able to shop for best prices and deals because prices at hospitals are not transparent and, perhaps more importantly, patients are in the "ultimate seller's market." Mr. Brill says in many instances, patients can't afford to price hunt because appendectomies, cancer treatments and other life-threatening illnesses require immediate attention.

Mr. Brill points a magnifying glass toward hospitals, especially non-profit hospitals. He explains these institutions have often become the "most profitable business and largest employers" in every city, and they also have some of the most highly paid executives, according to the article. The article also criticizes hospital chargemasters, saying the prices on chargemasters are not consistent with any other hospital, "nor do they seem to be based on anything objective — like cost."

The crux of the healthcare problem, Mr. Brill notes, is the fact patients continue to be shocked by high prices and insurmountable bills in a "marketplace they enter through no choice of their own."

"Yet those who work in the healthcare industry and those who argue over healthcare policy seem inured to the shock," Mr. Brill writes. "When we debate healthcare policy, we seem to jump right to the issue of who should pay the bills, blowing past what should be the first question: Why exactly are the bills so high?"

To read the TIME article on healthcare in its entirety, click here.

More Articles on Healthcare Costs:

Outlook for Healthcare in 2013: The Biggest Trends, Opportunities and Threats
4 Barriers to Patients' Consideration of Healthcare Costs
Is U.S. Health Spending Finally Under Control?

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